Flying Solo

[This tale is running in today’s Chronicle – but it’s not in their online version.]
DaddyTales: Flying Solo
By Patrick Matthews

I generally enjoy flying solo with the kids. I view it as a chance to get some special one-on-one time with the kids. So when my wife said she’d be gone for five days, I wasn’t too worried.

The first evening went well. The boys and I had a picnic in the den. I helped my six-year old get his homework done, and read a story with my four year old. I even managed to get their lunches packed. I went to sleep feeling reassured about my parenting.

The next morning, however, my six-year old woke me up with open rebellion.

“I don’t want to go to school today,” he announced as he banged his way through my bedroom door.

I sat up, bleary-eyed. “Well you’re going to school anyway.”

“No I’m not.”

I rolled out of bed and loomed over him. “You really want to start the day with a fight?”

He harrumphed and left. I followed.

“Good morning,” my youngest greeted us. “Can we play with the trains?”

“Sure,” I said. “I need to check the weather, anyway.”

I let the dogs out, turned on the computer, and discovered we had a cold day ahead of us. “It’s gonna be cold,” I called out. “That means long pants and shirts. Time to get dressed.”

I herded them into their bedroom and tossed some clothes their way. “These’ll work.”

“I’m hungry,” my six year old said.

“Breakfast after you get dressed.”

“No,” he said. “I don’t want to get dressed.”

His little brother stopped putting his pants on to watch.

I yawned. “No clothes, no breakfast,” I said and left. I grabbed a shower, fed the dogs, and inspected the breakfast options. By then the kids were dressed and playing in the den.

“Cereal or waffles?” I asked.

My youngest threw his hands over his head in celebration: “Waffles!”

“Both,” his older brother yelled.

It’s not hard to make waffles. Putting an extra waffle in the toaster oven is, perhaps, the simplest of all possible breakfasts. There was a note in his voice, however, that stopped me. He was still testing my authority. “Nope,” I said. “Pick one.”

He showed me his angry face: lowered eyebrows, flat mouth. “No,” he said. “I want both. You make me both.”

I really didn’t want to start the day with a fight. “So, waffles then?” I asked.

“No! Make me both!”

Enough was enough. I put the waffles down and let a little anger creep into my voice. “You’re about to miss breakfast.”

His eyes widened. “No,” he shouted. “I can get my own cereal. I can! You make me waffles and I’ll get my cereal.”

Seemed like a reasonable deal, so I agreed. The rest of the morning went smoothly and I figured the rebellion was over.

After school, however, he decided to push things again, this time by bullying his little brother. “No,” he shouted. “The scooter doesn’t go there!”

“Yes it does,” I said from the kitchen. “I just told him to put it there.”

“No! Someone could step on it!”

I walked over. The scooter was wedged between the wall and a small table. I looked at it and then looked at my son.

“No, really,” he shouted, gesturing wildly with his hands. “Really! What if someone was looking at this table, and couldn’t see something, and walked around to try to see it and leaned over and wasn’t looking, and stepped on the scooter!”

I smiled at him. “Sounds dangerous.”

He started to laugh, but choked it down. “But that’s not where we keep it,” he said. “It doesn’t go there!”

“It does now.” I chuckled. “Now what would you like for dinner? Cereal or waffles?”

“Daddy!” he shouted.

Flying solo with the kids? Yeah, it’s overrated.

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